The Meme That Has Secretly Been Around The Longest

It’s not really a raging debate, although if I were a clickbaity site, I would say something to that effect. But there is a disagreement about which meme was first, and I’m the one disagreeing.

I’ve been on the internet since 1993 when I bought my first computer, and it came with an AOL disc with minutes on it. There are some of you reading this scratching your heads, wondering what I’m talking about. That was the early internet, as far as my experience is concerned.

But a search for a certain meme led me to article after article with disagreements about which one was the first one. Let’s just take a look at a few things first before I get into it. The definition of “meme” begins with Richard Dawkins, who defined them as “an idea, behavior, or style that spreads by means of imitation from person to person within a culture and often carries symbolic meaning representing a particular phenomenon or theme. A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols, or practices, that can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals, or other imitable phenomena with a mimicked theme.” That’s according to Wikipedia, and it sounds about right.

So by that definition, there is a strong argument that the first meme came from a cartoon published between 1919 and 1920 in the Wisconsin Octopus, a magazine published at the University of Wisconsin.

meme
via Wisconsin Octopus

The reason that cartoon fits the definition is because it was followed by similar jokes. This one was published in the Wisconsin Octopus in 1921.

meme
via Wisconsin Octopus

Enough of the deep-dive history lesson for now. Let’s bring the conversation back to the age of the internet. It appears that the Dancing Baby GIF is getting credit for being the original meme because it made it to an episode of Ally McBeal. That’s what CNN has to say about it anyway.

meme

This is where I disagree. Of course, I’m not certain about it. But I seem to remember a certain other GIF being shared and going from joke to joke. It was one of my favorites, and I even participated in the sharing. It’s Superheroes Dancing, and back in the day, with limited capabilities, I thought the GIF was the most amazing thing I had ever seen.

dancing superheroes

I realized I had lost track of this little masterpiece. So I Googled it, and it wasn’t hard at all to find. A simple search for “superheroes dancing gif” and boom, there it was.

Then, another idea hit me. I could have a little fun with it. Why not? I couldn’t help myself.

superheroes dancing

It appears I was far from done. When I came across another GIF, I had to put two and two together. There simply wasn’t any choice.

meme

I can’t stop myself.

To be honest, I put my best thinker to work before wrapping up this article, and I think the dancing baby might have come before the superheroes. After all that, I might have had my dates mixed up. Either way, this was fun. Nothing like putting a dancing girl GIF in the “superheroes bowing” meme for everyone to enjoy!

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